Early Detection Research Network

Haptoglobin-alpha subunit as potential serum biomarker in ovarian cancer: identification and characterization using proteomic profiling and mass spectrometry.

The objective of this study was to identify and characterize new serum biomarkers in ovarian cancer patients using mass spectrometric protein profiling and specific immunological assays.

Serum samples from 80 cancer patients and 91 healthy women were analyzed by surface enhanced laser desorption and ionization-mass spectrometry (MS) profiling. A candidate biomarker was purified by affinity chromatography, and its sequence was determined by liquid chromatography-tandem MS. An antibody was generated from the synthesized peptide for quantitative validation in the cases and controls. CA125 was determined and compared with the same set of specimens.

Using surface enhanced laser desorption and ionization, we found a serum biomarker at approximately 11700 Da, which had peak intensity significantly higher in cases (1.366) compared with controls (0.208, P = 0.002), and subsequently identified this as the alpha chain of haptoglobin. ELISA indicated that Hp-alpha was </=2-fold higher in cancer serum compared with normal, benign tumor, and other gynecological cancers (P < 0.05) and had 64% sensitivity at 90% specificity alone and 91% sensitivity and 95% specificity if combined with CA125.

Haptoglobin-derived alpha subunit is a potential marker for ovarian cancer that is complementary to CA125. MS-based protein profiling is a valuable tool for screening protein markers and useful to detect post-translational modification of tumor-associated proteins or abnormal metabolic products. However, confirmation of protein identity with specific antibodies is crucial for clinical application and functional studies.

Berkowitz RS, Cramer DW, Fu L, Gygi SP, Horick NK, Licklider LJ, Mok SC, Pratomo V, Schorge JO, Skates SJ, Ye B

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Clin. Cancer Res., 2003, 9 (8)